This article is written by Reynold Leming of Mint Business Solutions to provide his view of what Knowledge is, together with thoughts on why a Knowledge Management programme can benefit organisations.
In simplest terms, information is transformed into knowledge when combined with experience.
For example, you are staying at the holiday cottage of a friend. You decide to a get a takeaway meal and find a number of menus in a kitchen drawer. The menu is an excellent container of information; however, in the absence of personal experience of these restaurants, you would gain knowledge if your friend had left with the menus any views in personal experiences together with any cuttings of reviews from local newspapers. In essence the goal is to capture the intellectual capital or tacit knowledge surrounding information.
Let me also give the "example" of Sherlock Holmes. "For many years he [Sherlock Holmes] had adopted a system of docketing all paragraphs concerning men and things, so that it was difficult to name a subject or a person on which he could not at once furnish information. In this case I [Watson] found her biography sandwiched in between that of a Hebrew rabbi and that of a staff-commander who had written a monograph upon the deep-sea fishes." ('A Scandal in Bohemia'). However, data was not necessarily enough, for as Holmes himself said: "As a rule, when I have heard some slight indication of the course of events, I am able to guide myself by the thousands of other similar cases which occur to my memory" (the case of 'The Red-headed League'). He combined his experiences (tacit knowledge) with a documented and organised information base (explicit knowledge). When combining his personal capabilities for deductive logic with this reusable information and experiences, he
was able to solve his cases. The narratives of his cases were always shared with Dr. Watson who was able to learn from them and record them as stories for posterity. Albeit based upon a fictional example, this is Knowledge Management!
As well as structured records such as documents, it is therefore important to capture (in related context) the narratives, ideas, opinions, anecdotes etc. of your staff.
Additionally, you should seek to stop staff retaining information resources "locally". We are all guilty of hoarding information assets, especially on our desktop or portable computers. This might be through a mixture of habit, protectiveness, lack of protocol or because there is nowhere else to put them. We have provided below a list of potential suspects in this hunt for 'hidden' the knowledge. Of course, whilst we entitle this section, 'The Sins of the C: Drive', this hoard might locate not just on your computer; think also about the information lurking within your desk drawers, rolodexes, notebooks, personal filing cabinets etc.
Web Links: As part of our routine internet usage, we come across interesting and useful sites or pages. These might be articles relating to our research or business; discussion forum; directories; the sites of potential customers, suppliers or partners; sources of news; case studies; guides to best practice etc. Our instinct is to bookmark them within our Browser favourites, rather than describe and share them with our colleagues for organisational benefit.
White Papers: Whether downloaded from the internet or received via email, how many PDF files do you have on your C: drive? Aside from being unavailable for organisational use, if you've saved them with the file name they arrived with, are they even know recognisable to you?
Presentations: If you are responsible for giving client, partner or internal presentations, are the PowerPoint (or equivalent) files retained on your portable computer? Whilst there is a practical need for this, they may also be needed to form part of an audit trail and be useful content resources to others for their message, facts and graphics.
Direct Mail: We all receive - and make decisions to keep - flyers, brochures, letters, product specifications, newsletters, reports, directories, manuals, magazines, journals etc. These might be in the form of email (not saved in a meaningful public folder) or hard copy filed in an ad-hoc manner without even an annotation as to why it is being retained. They may contain informative news, statistics and features that would be of interest to colleagues; they may provide useful materials to others when researching markets, solutions, competitors, suppliers and partners.
Literature: During or following presentations, training sessions, seminars, conferences or exhibitions, we acquire a range of literature (brought home in a plastic bag/promotional carry case, on a CD or received by email). As with direct mail, what happens to this information?
Contacts: Whilst we may have a formal method for recording and sharing contact details for prospects, customers and suppliers, there are probably many more business cards, letter heads and emails floating around the business. Even if you have a personal contact management 'system' for such records, you never know when one of these people/companies could be a colleague's potential prospect, supplier, influencer or guru.
Please also see our complementary information resource, The Document Site
able to guide myself by the thousands of other similar cases which occur to my memory
Can Mint help?
We can help you assess your business requirements for improving the capture and sharing of knowledge, followed by a review of how to knowledge-enable existing software systems or the development of new applications inclusive of these objectives.